Story at a glance
- Redlining is a historically racist policy discriminating against Black people, as well as other people of color.
- The Fair Housing Act since made it illegal to discriminate on the basis of race and other identities in housing.
- An advocacy group argues that Redfin’s minimum price requirement shuts out communities of color.
A lawsuit filed against real estate firm Redfin alleges that the company's minimum home price policy discriminates against those living in communities of color in many metropolitan areas.
“Redlining, and the residential segregation it causes, represents America’s oldest racist and discriminatory real estate policy. The fact that these actions are still occurring, let alone by a major corporation, demonstrates why we need strong civil rights protections now more than ever,” said Lisa Rice, president and CEO of the National Fair Housing Alliance (NFHA), in a statement.
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Redlining is a historically racist policy that denies government and private sector services to certain communities — primarily communities of color. In the lawsuit, NFHA argues that a minimum home listing price "serve[s] no legitimate purpose" but keeps buyers and sellers of homes in nonwhite areas from being able to use Redfin's services and discounts.
The company maintains that it hasn't broken any law, specifically the Fair Housing Act, and that the minimum price serves to ensure that their agents are paid a living wage with benefits. Still, the company says it has made progress in expanding their offerings for communities.
"It’s just hard to pay employees a living wage, while giving good prices to consumers. Most businesses, whether Walmart or Amazon, Tiffany or Sotheby’s, feel compelled to choose one or the other. We’ve always strived to do both. In an imperfect world full of choices we don’t always like, my ironclad commitment to you, beyond complying with the law in letter and spirit, is to do what we believe is right," said Redfin CEO Glenn Kelman in an email sent to all Redfin employees.
The Fair Housing Act prohibits discrimination by direct providers of housing on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, national origin, familial status or disability. The legislation was passed in 1968 as part of a slew of legislation pushed by the Civil Rights movement and makes it illegal to refuse to rent or sell housing or deny access to or any membership in any multiple listing service due to such discrimination. While Redfin isn’t directly connecting their services with race, the indirect result is that many communities of color, where property values are lower, are shut out of their listings.
“Redfin’s policies redline communities of color and will further exacerbate the racial wealth and homeownership gaps. We must ensure that all neighborhoods are treated fairly and have access to the full range of services provided by real estate companies. We must also ensure that companies do not use their technologies, including digitally-based platforms, to deny people the housing opportunities and services they deserve,” said Rice in a statement.
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